The Celtics were able to crawl back against their rivals, Philadelphia, thanks to Jayson Tatum’s heroic 51 point performance. Tatum’s point total is tied for the third highest by a Celtic in the playoffs and most in a game seven. Other lesser-known heroes for the Celtics included Al Horford’s excellent defense on the MVP and Brown’s consistency and energy.
Boston will now rematch the Miami Heat in the ECF for the third time in four years. But first, it’s time to highlight the heroes of game seven.
Jayson Tatum’s 51 Point Performance
The obvious contender for the hero of Sunday afternoon is Tatum. His incredible performance on Mother’s Day was just another cherry on top of his record-breaking season. Tatum gave the Celtics and fans 12 40+ point games this season/postseason. He makes people forget just how hard it is to actually score 40+ in an NBA game.
Tatum led the charge behind the Celtics’ 28-3 run in the third quarter of Sunday’s action. He had half of the 28 points scored, 11 of which came from field goals.
This performance comes after games of struggle and inefficiency for Tatum. The previous game he shot 5/21 but came alive in the fourth quarter to steal the win. In the game before that, he shot an inefficient 11/27 in a series-deciding (or supposedly) loss. One other game that stood out was his 7-point game in game 2, which saw the Celtics win by 34 points.
Perhaps we’re yet to see Tatum’s best in this playoffs, but this game seven was most likely close to it.
Horford’s Defense and Brown’s Impact
Two other players that had an impact for the Celtics’ sake was Horford and Jaylen Brown. Despite still struggling with his shooting, Horford showed us you don’t need elite offense to be an elite defender. On nearly 80 field goal attempts through the series, Embiid shot 37.9%, much below his average of 55% in the regular season. Horford also forced nine turnovers from his opponent.
Brown has been the idea of consistency among an otherwise inconsistent Boston team. He steadily provided the Celtics with 23 points per game throughout the Philadelphia series. However, his consistency isn’t what fired the Celtics from a 50/50 game in the second quarter.
Boston was losing by two points halfway through the second quarter. On a loose rebound, Brown sent himself close to the Philadelphia bench, and was grabbed by Georges Niang. Brown started arguing with the bench and double technicals were exchanged.
This shift in the energy turned the crowd up a notch. After game six’s win, Brown called out the Boston crowd for being an “okay” atmosphere. There is no doubt Boston’s fanbase turned it up a notch to root against Philadelphia.
Mini Preview with Miami Heat
The Miami Heat were a potential first-round matchup if they beat the Atlanta Hawks, which they failed to do. Now, two rounds later, the Celtics will face another of their rivals. The Heat shocked the basketball world after defeating the #1 seed in the East, then made quick-ish work of the New York Knicks.
The Celtics split the season series 2-2 with the Heat. Boston took the first two meetings and Miami took the last two meetings. Last year’s series against Miami in the ECF saw an exciting seven game series. Their other matchup was in the bubble, with the same WCF teams as well.
Jimmy Butler is at the helm of the South Florida team. His 54-point game four was the most points by any player this postseason.
Even though the Heat have the #8 seed attached to their name, the Celtics should not play with that knowledge. The Heat, as they’ve shown, are an extremely dangerous team. They knocked out a former 2x MVP in Antetokounmpo. Butler is a seasoned veteran on both the offensive and defensive end.
If the Celtics are to beat the Heat handily, they need to learn from their past series. Miami is a physical team that likes to get to the rim. The Celtics should utilize both Grant Williams and Robert Williams III to protect the basket. Will we see the Celtics having to crawl back against Miami, or will they take a commanding lead? The series kicks off in Boston on Wednesday at 8:30.
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